Log in

Commission applauds Jones’ grit in final meeting as chairman


LITTLE ROCK — Members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission celebrated outgoing Commission Chairman Stan Jones’s final regular meeting Thursday, hailing his perseverance and focus as just the right medicine for the challenges the AGFC faced and flourished in during Fiscal Year 2024.
AGFC Director Austin Booth summed up Jones’s tenacious and forthright approach to conservation and its effect on the staff in his address to the Commission.
“I am unbelievably proud of this agency, and I am unhesitatingly confident that what I said a year ago is 100 percent true, that the meeting we had a year ago was a foothold for us as we set off on what has been the most challenging year since I have been here,” Booth said.
Booth applauded the efforts of staff and commissioners and their determination to continue the agency’s mission of conservation during an uncertain time during the agency’s budget appropriation hearings.
“The amount of discipline it took for this agency to remain focused on what it is we do and what Arkansans expect us to do. The amount of work this agency has been able to do during the last six weeks despite the amount of anxiety that’s been hanging over the agency has been absolutely unforgettable,” Booth said.
If we look at the level of discipline, focus and frankly grit it’s taken for us to not just survive, but thrive in Fiscal Year 2024, it’s easy to see that a lot of that grit comes from somebody like Stan.”
With the same business-first attitude prominent in his term as chairman, Jones opened the meeting by inviting Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman to speak. Westerman, who serves as chairman of the House Natural Resource Committee, spoke about two initiatives for conservation on the national level that, if passed, could bring great news to conservation in The Natural State.
“The Explore Act passed [the House of Representatives] with 100 percent of the vote,” Westerman said. “To get a big bill passed unanimously is quite an accomplishment, but I think it speaks volumes to what outdoor recreation means to all aspects and all parts of our country.”
Westerman explained that the Explore Act [H.R. 6492] is a combination of a dozen or so different bills that focus on increasing opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The America’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act [H.R. 7408] was the second initiative Westerman presented to the Commission. This act is an offshoot of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act that many congressmen and congresswomen have been fighting to make a reality during the last decade. Westerman’s habitat conservation act “…The tenants of RAWA are something to be admired, and I wanted to look for a way to do something like RAWA because I believe so much in wildlife habitat but to do it in a way that’s paid for,” Westerman said. “That’s where the American Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act came.”
The new act would require five-year renewal windows for reauthorization and have an opportunity to deliver supplemental conservation funds through proceeds from the byproduct of habitat management actions.
Jose Jimenez, chief of the AGFC’s recreational shooting division, followed Westerman with a presentation to the Commission outlining the direction and future of shooting sports in The Natural State. According to Jimenez’s research and communications on a national level, Arkansas is the first state conservation agency to have an entire division solely dedicated to promoting and providing facilities and programs for recreational shooting.
“Moving forward, I want to come back next year; I want to show all the progress that we have made, and I want to be a leader,” Jimenez said. “Not just as a pioneer because we were one of the first states to do it, but because we’re doing it successfully.”
The Commission also formally elected J.D. Neeley of Camden to serve as Commission Chairman during Fiscal Year 2025 and Anne Marie Doramus of Little Rock as Commission Vice-Chairman. Their terms will begin July 1, 2024.
In other business, the Commission:
Approved a regulation change to drop the seasonal bag limit on wild turkeys for nonresident youths to one bird, making it consistent with the seasonal bag limit for nonresident adults;
Heard the first reading of a few clarifications to the regulation changes passed in May to align the wording of the code with the intent of regulations presented to the Commission:
Adding language to specifically prohibit shotguns from the new statewide alternative firearms season,
Clarifying that handguns with barrels no less than 4 inches and chambered for straight-walled centerfire cartridges .30 caliber or larger may be used during the new statewide alternative firearms season.
Clarifying that straight-walled firearms used during Deer Zone 4 and 5 modern gun seasons must be non-semiautomatic,
Clarifying that nonresidents may use dogs for hunting deer on private and public land where deer dogs are allowed only during the last nine days of the regular modern gun deer season and that they are restricted to a limit of one deer using dogs, and
Clarifying that only one deer may be harvested during the early season archery hunt and that deer must be a buck;
Recognized seven employees with a combined 125 years of experience for their service and dedication to the natural resources of Arkansas;
Authorized Director Booth to enter into a grant agreement with the Arkansas Prescribed Burn Association to provide up to $25,000 to advance the use of prescribed fire in restoring and maintaining the high-quality wildlife habitat;
Approved the agency’s Fiscal Year 2025 Black River WMA Restoration Fund Budget of $1,515,000;
Approved the agency’s Fiscal Year 2025 Gas Lease Funds Budget of $850,000];
Approved the agency’s Fiscal Year 2025 Marine Fuel Tax Funds Budget of $5,550,461];
Approved the agency’s Fiscal Year 2025 Operating Funds Budget of $152,601,103 ;
Approved a processing fee increase of $1 for the purchase of the electronic Federal Migratory Bird Stamp to help offset an increase of $2 in processing fees from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service;
Authorized Director Booth to enter into an agreement to accept a land donation of 2.32 acres adjacent to War Eagle Creek in Madison County and pay associated expenses for standard due diligence and normal real estate closing costs];
Authorized Director Booth to enter into an agreement to accept a land donation of 2.89 acres adjacent to Cadron Creek in Faulkner County and pay associated expenses for standard due diligence and normal real estate closing costs;
Authorized Director Booth to enter into an agreement to accept a land donation of 3 acres adjacent to Hope upland Wildlife Management Area in Hempstead County and pay associated expenses for standard due diligence and normal real estate closing costs;
Authorized Director Booth to enter into an agreement to execute an easement over Dardanelle Lake Nursery Pond in Johnson County to Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative for placement of new utility transmission lines, and
Approved the removal of four buildings on Commission inventory with a total original cost of $32,891 and a current combined net book value of $6,617.
A video of the meeting is available at https://www.youtube.com/user/ArkansasGameandFish.